More than 60 years after a former B-17 bomber mechanic wrote a goodbye note to a 9-year-old English boy during a going-away party for Americans near the close of World War II, the two wore once again united through a computer.
Former Staff Sgt. Charles V. Renshaw, of River Eagle mobile home part off U.S. 17 north of Punta Gorda, Fla., was serving with the 545th Squadron, 384th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force near Geddington, England. From 1942 to 1945, he and the other members of his squadron were a couple of miles from the little country town.
At the close of World War II in Europe, during the spring of 1945, the town held a party for the Americans, whom they much admired. Charles, along with everyone else in his squadron, attended he bash.
In attendance was 9-year-old Peter Charles Brown, who brought his autograph book. During the party for the airmen, Charles signed a card for the boy that read:
“Thank you for the wonderful time I’ve had at the Geddington Scriptures Union meetings.
“Yours in our Savior’s name.
“Charles V. Renshaw,
“Carmi, Illinois, U.S.A.”
By accident, Charles’ niece, who still lives in Carmi, happened upon the 384h Bomb Group’s web site a few months ago. She spotted a copy of Charles’ note to the young boy he had written so long ago and realized it was from her uncle. The boy, Peter Brown, is now 70 and just by chance his son, David Brown, is a researcher who helps maintain the bomb group’s web site.
A note above Charles’ handwritten note on the site reads: “Charles V. Renshaw–I can find no reference to this person in connection with the 384h ….someone must know something. He was definitely at Geddington when this signature was taken.”
Charles’ niece contacted her aunt, Jean Charles’ wife, and she in turn e-mailed David Brown. The two families have been in contact by computer for the past eight months.
In one e-mail to the Renshaws, Dave writes, “My father met Charles at church at Geddington in ’45 and got his autograph when he was 9 years old. My father’s name is Peter Charles Brown. I would really like to have as much information on Charles as possible, as well as photographs with him in the 384th.
“We all owe our lives to people like Charles and the thousands of others who gave their lives for freedom. To make contact with your family is a dream come true for a researcher like myself.
“I hope to hear from you soon.
The Renshaws e-mailed Dave 19 pictures form Charles’ photo album. They show him and his buddies standing in front of and working on B-17s. Dave included a copy of the note the 93-year-old mechanic wrote Dave’s father 61 years ago just before he sailed home.
Charles grew up on a farm near Carmi in southern Illinois, and was drafted and went into the service in 1942 at age 29. After two weeks of basic, he was trained to maintain the radios and radar on B-17s.
“We left New York for England aboard the Queen Elizabeth. It was the largest load of troops the ship carried during the war,” Charles recalled. “We slept in shifts going over. They took us off the ocean-liner off the coast of England. We came into Liverpool in smaller boats.”
When Charles and the servicemen and women arrived in England in 1942, there were still many dark days ahead for the English and Allied Forces.
“There is no way about it; had we not been over there, Hitler would have been across the English Channel. He would have taken England and if he had gotten England, he would have taken the United States,” the old airman said.
What he remembers most about England and his three years over there are the English people.
“They were very nice. I had some wonderful friends over there. They would come to our prayer group every Sunday. That’s where we met a lot of English people,” he said.
Sometimes, on a long weekend, Charles and a couple of friends would take a train around England to see the sights.
“I saw a lot of English countryside and many of the towns,” he said. “It was rough going into the bigger cities because you would see a lot of the buildings had been damaged by the ‘Blitz.’”
Charles’ only regret: “I never got a chance to go back and visit some of the friends I made in England during the war.”
19 June 1913 – 27 Feb. 2009
Charles Renshaw served in World War II as an airplane electric mechanic in Normandy Northern France, Ariennes Rhineland Center Europe Air Offensive Europe.
He received the European African Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon with 1 Silver and 1 Bronze Battle Star, 4 Overseas Service Bars, 1 Service Stripe, Good Conduct Medal.
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2006 and is republished with permission.
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